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DLA Piper bumps London NQ pay by 7% to £75,000

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Global outfit’s trainees will also receive extra cash

DLA Piper has bumped up the pay packets of its London-based newly-qualified (NQ) solicitors and trainees.

Until recently, fresh-faced associates at the global outfit had enjoyed a salary of £70,000. They will now take home £75,000 — a modest pay rise of £5,000 or 7%. Legal Cheek’s Most List shows that DLA’s London lot are now on an earning par with their peers at Hogan Lovells, Norton Rose Fulbright and Travers Smith, and a full £3,000 better off than NQs at Ashurst and Baker & McKenzie (£72,000).

DLA has also confirmed that trainee pay has been upped. Those in the first year of their training contract will now pocket £44,000, up from £42,000, while those a year ahead will earn £49,000, up from £47,000. These salary boosts equate to a rise of 5% and 4% respectively.

Further up the ladder, associates with one-year post qualification experience (PQE) will see their salaries bumped from £76,500 to £82,000 (7%), while associates with two years PQE under their belts will now trouser £95,000, up from £85,000 (12%). According to DLA, the new associate figures are “average earnings” and include “bonus potential”.

The boosts come after the firm took the decision to push back its spring salary reviews until July to assess what other firms were going to do. Commenting on the pay increases — which will be backdated to May — DLA’s managing partner, Sandra Wallace, said:

We consistently recognise the contributions of our people and want to reward them competitively. With that in mind, delaying our associate salary review was the right decision to make; it’s meant that we are now better positioned in the market — both in London and the rest of England.

Trainee pay at DLA’s regional offices remains unchanged at £27,000 for first years and £30,000 for second years. Meanwhile, NQs outside London will receive an extra £1,000, taking their final salaries to £42,000.

The firm, which offers around 75 training contracts annually, scored As in Legal Cheek’s 2016 Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey for training, quality of work, social life, partner-approachability, peer support and international secondment opportunities.

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40 Comments

Anonymous

The true magic circle firm

(16)(1)

Adam Deen

Why does Legal Cheek never mention that DLA are a global magic circle firm? Terrible journalism.

(6)(1)

Anonymous

Their TC application process is weird. It doesn’t show when the deadlines closed and will open again

(0)(1)

Anonymous

It only opens again if all spaces aren’t filled from their vacation schemes

(1)(0)

Extra extra

You’re on the slow side LC, there’s more raises at other firms too:

Ince & Co – NQs on £63.25k
Charles Russell Speechlys – NQs on £63.5k
Holman Fenwick Willan – NQs up to £62k
Pinsent Masons – NQs on £66k
Simmons & Simmons – NQs on £70k

(5)(1)

Big boi dolla dolla billz playa US NQ Partner law man

Who..?

(6)(2)

Anonymous

Creative nickname, 10/10.

(1)(0)

Olswang

When will ours arrive?

(1)(0)

Anonymous

Watson Farley up to 70k

(0)(0)

Anonymous

“the new associate figures are “average earnings” and include “bonus potential””

So the £75k and £82k figures for NQ and 1PQE respectively are inclusive of bonuses.

It is unclear whether the previous figures of £70k and £76.5k for NQ and 1PQE respective were inclusive of bonuses – if not (and I stand to be corrected), then this isn’t really a pay rise, but simply a change to way in which salaries are being reported by the firm.

(4)(2)

Bandito

They are exclusive on bonuses, at least at NQ

(2)(0)

Anonymous

It’s a rise. The trainee and NQ figures don’t include bonuses. The figures from PQE+1 do include bonus potential but they always have.

(2)(0)

Anonymous

Totally agreee,Freshfields NQ salary figure includes potential bonus too and it’s purposely unclear.

(7)(0)

Bandito

The 1PQE, 2PQE etc. bonus inclusive rates that the big UK and Magic Circle firms are adopting is all just posturing and obfuscation in an attempt to convince junior lawyers they are not that much worse off staying where they are rather than jumping to a US outfit. That said, I know of at least one US firm that has adopted a similar tack, recently imprementing a 17-ish% increase for it’s NQs, but barely a a 3% increase for its senior associates, even though it had publicly stated it’s uplift at the senior level would be similarly generous. It’s all smoke and mirrors in this game…

(7)(0)

Anonymous

S&S or W&C?

(3)(0)

Bandito

Let’s just say its one of those two…

(1)(0)

Anonymous

If we say 2PQE can get a maximum bonus of say 15% this means that their base salary would only be circa 82k…smoke and mirrors

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Clyde & Co…. still struggling.

(5)(0)

Anonymous

Why did LC delete the comment with other law firm salaries?

(3)(1)

Anonymous

Because they’re terrible journalists.

(8)(1)

Anonymous

My parents are rich so none of this matters to me. I’ll take a ‘lousy’ 70k.

(9)(1)

Anonymous

Accuracy note: Unless this firm has devised an unusual tax avoidance scheme, it is not correct to describe the salary figures you quote as sums the employees ‘take home’, ‘pocket’ or ‘trouser’.

(8)(2)

SC 2PQE

Anyone able to comment on bonuses more generally in the market?

I have peers at the ‘elite’ US firms who are 2PQE and getting £40k bonuses. Beats my £6k any day…

(2)(0)

Anonymous

Gotta like it up the ass if you want the high bonuses

(0)(0)

Anonymous

What about Irwin Mitchell?

NQs are surviving on beans and breadcrumbs over here.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

I propose a Remembrance Day for all those who have struggled and continue to struggle at Irwin Mitchell, DWF and similarly dreadful shops. Never forget.

(5)(0)

Bandito

I remember reading years ago about a comment Jeff Immelt made while giving a talk at HBS. He was discussing the difference in attitude between US and European business people and that in the US it was all about the bravado and being proud of how much you make, fiercely competing with one’s contemporaries over pay etc., while in Europe it was always played down because those around you (and your clients) have the “that’s money you stole from me” attitude. I think that dichotomy is palpable if we look at the response by the bulk of Wall Street firms (even those that we would consider mid-tier firms by UK standards here) to almost immediately match Cravath’s 180k 1st year salary. Compare that to the City, where it is a slow teeth pulling exercise eked out over years, with firms giving the bare minimum neccessary (and often everything except money – DWF agile working sheds anyone?) to retain people, with probably much umming and ah-ing by DLA’s execs along the lines of “where do we see ourselves in the market?…probably just about as good as (maybe a bit worse than) Norton Rose or Hogan Lovells and some of the Silver Circle, but not up there with the Magic Circle…but the Magic Circle are not really paying that much more than us that a significant number of people would jump ship to work longer hours with a little bit more prestige”. This is a damaging thought process for a professional services firm, because what a firm is paying in the City is an indicator to the market of how it sees itself and also (albeit not necessarily true) the size of deals that it is handling, how well it is doing and the calibre of lawyer at the firm. The reality is that an NQ in the London office at Norton Rose, Hogan Lovells or DLA Piper is broadly at the level of a 3rd year US associate in terms of on-the-job experience, yet they are earning USD 98,000, compared to about USD 210,000 that the third year US associate is making in New York, which has a lower cost of living than London. The fact that these firms are all Swiss vereins, the results of transatlantic mergers and not financially integrated with their US counterparts goes some way toward providing an excuse for this iniquity, but there really is no escaping the fact that the lawyer you’re working with in your US office (who could be on their first day on the job) is earning twice as much as you. That is a bitter pill to swallow. Even a K&E London NQ is getting a rough deal compared to his/her wet behind the ears New York counterpart.

(25)(2)

This person gets it

Glorious comment.

100% agree, 10/10.

(9)(1)

Anonymous

Nonsense. Three years of university and three years of law school in the US will easily set you back $200,000. In the U.K. it’s a tenth of that.

Also in the US there is no free healthcare.

I’d rather live here, enjoy being in the top 1% and not work myself to death at a US firm.

(0)(3)

Anonymous

Four years of undergraduate university mate, not three. Do some research before you brag about how good you have it in this hole.

You’d be surprised how much better it is on the other side.

(1)(2)

Bandito

Our agreement to join a firm is, in essence, the sale of us as a product (I was once actually described by a Partner who had a penchant for economics as an unfinished widget being polished by my firm and sold on depending on my grade). The price we are able to able to extract for our raw material will depend in large part on our experience, calibre, marketability etc. When people espouse the argument that because the route to qualification for a US lawyer is a longer and more expensive process, whereas the UK route is slightly quicker and significantly cheaper, they are essentially saying, to use factory terms, that because factory A is able to produce a widget in half as much time and for half as much money as factory B, factory A should be selling that widget for half as much as factory B sells the same widget to firms for. In a normal market system this would and should never be the case and the price of the widget would be governed by ordinary market forces. The European market is just not fiercely competitive because its players aren’t, though we are least now seeing a modicum of competition as more and more US players enter the market. Each person who has benefited from a good quality legal training at slightly less cost should be seeking to capitalise on the fact they were able to produce a widget at a low price to maximise their notional profit margin. However, the reality is that people are severely selling themselves short in this market by saying things (probably tongue in cheek) like one of commenters above: “my parents are rich so none of this matters to me. I’ll take a ‘lousy’ 70k”. Even if tongue in cheek, there’s a lot of truth in that remark, because I think the middle/upper class upbringing and safety net that so many Solicitors in the City have enjoyed, means that they fail to genuinely appreciate what a cushion family money is. However, it can also have a soporific effect. They owe it to their next generation not to fall into “trust fund kid” territory and assume 70,000 will adequately fund hyperactive social lives, expensive accommodation and a pension fund (which it won’t) and make as much as possible to ensure that their next generation has the same advantages they had. If every lawyer in the City had that attitude, the market for our services would be significantly more competitive and financially rewarding for all of us.

(7)(1)

Anonymous

Paragraphs mate. My head isn’t meant to be made to feel this way on a Friday morning.

(4)(1)

Bandito

I drafted it in the style of a US legal doc in tribute.

(4)(0)

Anonymous

Yeah… Trump, guns, foreign invasions, race war, drug epidemic.

Sounds utopian.

(1)(0)

Trumpenhammer

LOL, shows just how little you know about the US.

Keep on watching BBC and CNN mate, they’re good for you.

(2)(0)

Bandito

When people quote the cost of a legal education in the US, they tend to assume attendance at a private Ivy League institute, no scholarships etc. However, there are a number of state universities whose cohort feature prominently at US firms. The best example I can think of off-hand is the University of Texas at Austin. In-state tuition fees are only $10,110 a year, which equates to a cheaper legal education a a top US university than most of the top UK universities.

University of Texas graduates make up the majority of the intakes at Akin Gump, Vinson and Elkins and Baker Botts, where their 1st year associates will all be making $180,000. Assuming you’re one of their Austin associates, your cost of living will be around 30% less than one of their London NQs.

I accept that there are also no doubt an appreciable number US students from mid-to-low income families who made it into the Ivy League and other good private universities and are loaded up with debt, though at the same time (as in the UK), there will be a significant number of students from wealthy families that come out of university with very little (if any) debt.

For LLB, candidates, after 1 year of LPC and 2 years of training they are effectively in the same “qualified lawyer” position as a US law grad who sits the bar over the Summer and qualifies immediately. For GDLers (which is probably about half of the City), they have an extra year of study, so it is at least seven years (or eight if they take a 4-year course) from starting uni until they qualify. As such, I don’t necessarily accept the view that one does qualify quicker in the UK than in the US.

(1)(0)

Meh

Our agreement to join a firm is, in essence, the sale of us as a product (I was once actually described by a Partner who had a penchant for economics as an unfinished widget being polished by my firm and sold on depending on my grade). The price we are able to able to extract for our raw material will depend in large part on our experience, calibre, marketability etc.

When people espouse the argument that because the route to qualification for a US lawyer is a longer and more expensive process, whereas the UK route is slightly quicker and significantly cheaper, they are essentially saying, to use factory terms, that because factory A is able to produce a widget in half as much time and for half as much money as factory B, factory A should be selling that widget for half as much as factory B sells the same widget to firms for. In a normal market system this would and should never be the case and the price of the widget would be governed by ordinary market forces.

The European market is just not fiercely competitive because its players aren’t, though we are least now seeing a modicum of competition as more and more US players enter the market. Each person who has benefited from a good quality legal training at slightly less cost should be seeking to capitalise on the fact they were able to produce a widget at a low price to maximise their notional profit margin.

However, the reality is that people are severely selling themselves short in this market by saying things (probably tongue in cheek) like one of commenters above: “my parents are rich so none of this matters to me. I’ll take a ‘lousy’ 70k”. Even if tongue in cheek, there’s a lot of truth in that remark, because I think the middle/upper class upbringing and safety net that so many Solicitors in the City have enjoyed, means that they fail to genuinely appreciate what a cushion family money is. However, it can also have a soporific effect.

They owe it to their next generation not to fall into “trust fund kid” territory and assume 70,000 will adequately fund hyperactive social lives, expensive accommodation and a pension fund (which it won’t) and make as much as possible to ensure that their next generation has the same advantages they had. If every lawyer in the City had that attitude, the market for our services would be significantly more competitive and financially rewarding for all of us.

(1)(0)

Was meant to be a reply

To make it more digestible.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

With this in mind, thoughts on current salary levels in the Magic Circle? How much – taking into account their profits, number of junior lawyers etc. as compared with US firms – do you think they should be paying?

(1)(0)

Anonymous

‘It won’t’

It will. I will always be in the top 5%, and my parents are worth several million. No need to worry.

(0)(1)

Comments are closed.